Tuesday, January 18, 2005

What I Love About the Episcopalian Church

Via the most excellent Pontifications, I read these thirteen reasons to love the Episcopalian Church. Rather than eat lunch, I thought I'd doodle some replies / comments. Salty Vicar's list is in blue. My doodling is in black.

1) The Book of Common Prayer is poetically precise and complete in its beauty. I agree. At least the one I've got from 1945 is. I haven't read newer ones, but I'll take your word for it.

2) The service is efficient in its theology, generating thought through prayer. I don't have the slightest idea what that means, sorry. I'm not trying to be arch, I really don't understand what he's getting at. The only thing I can figure out is that prayer is an exercise to generate thought, but that can't be right, or the whole of it. I can generate thought reading blogs.

3) We emphasize shared prayer and the care of souls as a grounding for theology and practice. OK, no problem with that in my view.

4) We are transparent in our organization. We've got John Allen, does that count?

5) Priests listen to the members. . . . 6) Bishops listen to the priests. Same with us. Ours just don't do anything afterwards.

7) The church isn't afraid of truth in the secular world. We're not really keen on the idea of truth running around loose in the secular world. One time it happened, the truth got picked up by the police and killed. Father was really teed off about that. Caused an earthquake and everything! Now He insists on a chaperone at all times, and let me tell you, that chaperone is strict: "[Condemned:] The Roman Pontiff can, and ought to, reconcile himself, and come to terms with progress, liberalism and modern civilization." A lot of us have gotten pretty good about sneaking out of windows at night and raising hell, though.

8) We respect the traditions of the church, but are also critical. But surely criticism can't be a positive value? It may be a sign of incomplete conversion, or even a regrettable necessity, but it can't be an unalloyed good.

9) The music has been generally free from fads and trends. Same here. Oh, we've had our problems with trendy fads for older music like Tantum Ergo or Holy God We Praise Thy Name. But in the main we've kept to the old standards by Schutte, Haugen, and the like. Gag.

10) You're average Episcopal priest is pastorally sensitive, eager to serve and pretty good at making ethical judgements. Well I'm not sure about that, see below.

11) Its a good place for people who've been abused by other denominations, or are skeptical of "authority" generally, while wanting order. OK. But where do you send abused Episcopalians?

12) Scripture is a friend rather than a rule. I'm not sure why these aspects are opposed to one another. Given the misery I've seen generated by and in lives which depart from the commandments I tend to think of the decalogue as a very friendly set of rules.

13) Our daughters can use birth control without feeling ashamed. Why can't your sons use birth control? Surely the story of Onan is their friend, and not a rule? What gets my goat about this point is that it seems to assume that the object of Christian life is thwarted by the advent of shame. Who, actually, cares that Episcopalian girls are ashamed when they use birth control? I don't and, frankly, neither should any Episcopalian. What ought to be the main concern is whether Episcopalian girls are justified in experiencing that shame, but the whole issue of whether birth control is just seems to have been tossed out the window. That's not good ethical guidance in my book. And it's also small beer to boot. Even assuming that Episcopalian girls shouldn't feel ashamed when they use abortifacients like the pill, isn't the greater boon freedom from a blasphemous, blinkered papal elite with unshakeable medieval tendencies to hate women? Seriously, isn't it? I should think so, and unless this point is hyperbolic shorthand for that liberation (which it may well be) I think it displays a rather disordered set of pastoral priorities.

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